Domaine de Durban Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (375 ML half-bottle) 2017
Sweet indeed, but not without a healthy infusion of that higher-altitude freshness. It’s no wonder why the French drink it before dinner rather than just saving it for dessert.
To walk through the high-altitude vineyards at Domaine de Durban is to walk through history, a handful of the soil reveals ancient Roman roof tiles and medieval pot shards. The scenic views put one at pause considering the timelessness—wine has been a part of the culture here for millennia. Jacques Leydier bought the property in the 1960s when the farm had fallen into disrepair. Today, Henri and Philippe Leydier run the domaine and this magical spot has assumed a higher purpose, producing some of the most memorable wines of the Southern Rhône. The Leydiers farm fifty-five hectares, producing a powerful Gigondas, a velvety Beaumes-de-Venise Rouge, and undeniably the most celebrated Muscat in the entire appellation.
Recognized for its high elevation vineyards of Grenache and Syrah, Beaumes de Venise is one of the few villages promoted to Cotes du Rhone Villages status. The region also produces the famous Vin Doux Naturel, made exclusively from the best Muscat variety, Muscat blanc à Petits Grains. The enticing, floral aromas of these Muscat-based fortified wines make them ideal for early consumption and do not require aging.
Apart from the classics, we find many regional gems of different styles.
Late harvest wines are probably the easiest to understand. Grapes are picked so late that the sugars build up and residual sugar remains after the fermentation process. Ice wine, a style founded in Germany and there referred to as eiswein, is an extreme late harvest wine, produced from grapes frozen on the vine, and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar. It is becoming a specialty of Canada as well, where it takes on the English name of ice wine.
Vin Santo, literally “holy wine,” is a Tuscan sweet wine made from drying the local white grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia in the winery and not pressing until somewhere between November and March.